Hundreds in need get winter gear at 23rd annual "Buy Nothing Day" coat drive
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) - Hundreds of people in Providence got decked out in free winter gear outside of the State House on Black Friday at the 23rd annual "Buy Nothing Day" coat drive.
Winter coats, hats and gloves filled the State House lawn, all of them free, for those in need.
"We hope everyone leaves with a coat, so hopefully for the winter everyone stays warm thanks to this event," said Lauren Testoni, who puts on the event alongside her mom.
The Testoni family took over the event from Greg Gerritt who founded the event 23 years ago.
The drive grows each year, and it's not just a way to help those less fortunate. The coat drive also aims to send a message.
"It's also a good way to let the community know that there are still issues that we need to address - homelessness, mental health issues, substance abuse. Things that people need to see," said Testoni.
That's why organizers chose to set up the coat drive at a symbolic spot in between the State House and the Providence Place Mall.
"It's anti-consumerism, and also, hey, we need your help. We need the state to get behind us and help these issues, help these people that really need the help."
Locations across the state collected coats for the drive, like hospitals, businesses, and non-profits. Over a thousand coats were donated in total, filling a 26-foot U-Haul truck.
"The line builds up early in the morning, sometimes like 4-5 in the morning," said volunteer Darrell Turner.
Dozens volunteer each year just to give back, like Turner, who has helped out for more than five years.
"I seen a lot of generosity, I seen a lot of compassion. This is the hood's Black Friday!"
Even groups like the MAP program, a drug and alcohol addictions rehab center, brave the cold to lend a hand. The group sent fifteen men to volunteer this year.
"It's our way of giving back and saying thank you. Some of us are going through tough times. It's a good feeling," said Christopher Veiga, a volunteer with the MAP program.
Organziers hope to continue the event for years to come to keep those in Providence nice and cozy during the brutally cold winter months.
"It totally will change your life, literally, to have this coat, you can stay warm for the night, it's survival," said Testoni.
The coat drive is in need of XL-5XL size coats for next year, and more hats and gloves. Click here to learn how you can donate.
© WLNE-TV 2019